Mar 31, 2011

Contests End Today! A-Z Blogging Challenge Begins Tomorrow!

The Carol contest and the Elana contest end at midnight, April 1. Thank you to everyone who entered and showed Carol and Elana support. The winners of the Carol contest will be announced on April 3, I will announce the winner of my $15 Barnes and Noble gift card here. The winner of the Elana contest will be announced soon after that. I have not read over any of the entries, but there are a lot of them and I appreciate that! Two questions will be selected to be answered by Elana via blog. One entrant will win the ARC of Possession. Fun stuff!

The A-Z Blogging Challenge, which is hosted by several super bloggers, starts tomorrow, April 1, and runs through the whole month, save for Sundays. Click the button on my sidebar for details and a list of 1,000 bloggers who are joining in. My strategy for visiting every blog is...I don't have one yet. I think I'll go for 50 a day. Ahem, yeah.

Spring break is coming to a close, and it barely feels like it started. :(

Looks like April will be a crazy month. Especially since it's the last month of the spring semester and of course I have ten million papers and projects to do.

No one said life was easy, but I intend to make it fun!

Mar 28, 2011


On spring break and it's a whopping thirty degrees. #springbreakinmichiganfail

I took the last few days and had fun. Driving back home tonight, and then back to the grindstone tomorrow (homework, cleaning, and writing).

I think I find a way to get back into writing accountability (since hemorrhaging $$$ toward my charity hasn't been motivating me). Visiting with my hometown besties this weekend made me realize they are the perfect readers for me since they continuously asked about my writing and dreams and hopes and yeah. One of the friends is a copy editor/news-writer and the other is a Kindle toting YA and fresh adult fiction fanatic. How perfect is that? And the funniest part of all of this is I never thought of asking them before this weekend.

When you're looking for an outside perspective on your writing, do not look so far away. And I think it's important to have IRL friends reading your writing.

The news writer friend made the best comment ever after I said my CP's tell me I go on rants. She said, "Yeah, I remember that from high school. If you paid attention to the first sentence, you'd be able to follow along. But by the end, Jon was ten feet from the original topic." Talk about a freaking epiphany!!!

Let's see how long this mode of motivation pans out.

Mar 25, 2011

Hodge Podge Post of News and Coolness

Lot's of things going on. I'll apply brevity for both our sakes.

If you live under a rock and haven't seen, I have two contests running. Carol. Elana. Awesomesauce.

Anita Laydon Miller has started a middle grade blog. If it's anything like her author blog, it'll be filled with pragmatic advice, hilarious anecdotes, and interactive discussions.

Christine Fonseca has been contriving a release party for her non-fiction book 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids. Originally deemed to be released in the beginning of May, 101 has been shipped!

And so if you were waiting to order it, there's no need to wait! Here's a little more info via Amazon:

Pssst! Want to know a secret? 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook is a must-read for gifted kids ages 8 to 12 who want to find success in school and life. If you know gifted kids, they will love the 101 awesome secrets, tips, and tricks included in this book! 
Chock full of fun suggestions and practical strategies, 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids covers topics including bullying, school performance, perfectionism, friendships, and sibling rivalries. Fun quizzes, tip sheets, and practical Q & A sections from other gifted kids and preteens make this book fun to read and give gifted kids insight into everything they've ever wanted to know about being gifted. Proven strategies for dealing with stress management, parents' and teachers' expectations, anxiety, cyber-bullying, friendship troubles, and more make this the must-have guide for every gifted kid!
Purchase at Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and don't forget to give Christine a shout out! (She didn't know the book was released until just the other day!)

I am participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge just because I feel like challenging myself. I know, I have a death wish... Anyway, click the blog button over on the right for details about the blog fest.

Next fall I am taking a class called Educating Diverse Learners. Hi. So excited about that one!

I am a couple of weeks away from my two hundredth post!

I quit my job on Wednesday. I got hired on Monday to be a server at a family restaurant in town. I am calling it Operation: Inhibition Annihilation.

Oh, and it snowed 8" this week. After the first day of spring...

Mar 23, 2011


I was lucky enough to grow up in a state that funds its education with a lot of mullah. In high school, we had after school classes that were electives and not extracurriculars. You could get a lot of college prep credits racked up. I took two semesters of a class called Outdoor Education. In autumn, we kayaked, canoed, ran, and biked. In winter, we still ran (with our parkas on), but we also learned winter survival skills and camped overnight when it was ten degrees outside. Spring in Outdoor Education was sublime. We did triathlons, half-marathons, swimming, kayaked, and orienteering - most of which was at the Ludington State Park.

The Ludington State Park (which Midwest Living Magazine considers the #1 park in the Midwest) is an awesome place to orienteer. The top of one of the 250' sand dune is the best places to start, especially if you're looking over a two mile valley of pine groves and sand pits to the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Once you're in the valley, you cannot see the lighthouse, you must rely on your compass, calculations, and collaboration in order to make it to the lighthouse.

Orienteering is the ultimate activity for me because it is physical, active, and requires teamwork - three of my favorite things. I excel in collaborative activities overall. Even in writing. A few of my friends and I have been (hardly) working on prose and non-fiction collaborative projects. It is totally my fault that we are not progressing more quickly. School is always kicking my butt, and I am pushing myself to get all A's this semester. I am on track in three of my four classes*.

The point about orienteering is that I have been laying lines and looking ahead so that I can successfully complete all homework to the best of my ability. Which is like checkpoints along a course. Now, I need to start calculating how I can get back to writing for myself, and writing with others. I already know taking breaks does not work (although the mini spring break next week should help). Blog hiatuses only mask the real issues. It's clearly all about balance, every writer says the same thing. But it's hard to juggle, when you don't even know what you're supposed to catch. Everything falls in the end. I am sick of bending over and retrieving the activities I am passionate about. I need a writing treadmill, like Paul. Or a scribe.

Congrats if you really find a point in any of this. And if you do, let me know, so I can convince myself one was there all along.

*I had a minor victory yesterday in the fourth class, I finally broke the B barrier. The class is Intro to Education, and my prof is the cream of the crop. He really is an exceptional teacher, but he's a hard grader. And, honestly, I know he simply expects his students to do better. We have a paper about every three weeks and the first one I got an 85 and I received an 87.5 on the second. For the third, I really buckled down and spent time working my way through the paper to get out exactly what I meant. I am not going to say that totally paid off, but I finally moved beyond the B and got a 90. It's an A, albeit a low A, but it's still an A.

Mar 21, 2011

Contests Round Up!

Who chose Roundup for the name of a weed killer? That makes no sense to me. Okay, it's Monday. Gotta focus.

Last week was a freaking riot, no? Checkout the Carol Valdez Miller Got an Agent Contest and the Elana is Like My Favorite Person Ever Contest (and you probably know that I am a habitual hyperbolizer, but in this case I am all truth and no exaggerations*)

Go my little friends and enter if you haven't already; the prizes are bangin'. Winners will be announced after the deadline which is midnight of April 1.

This week I have major projects and papers** due. I know I say that every week, but this is the week before spring break so it is more true than ever before. I am full of truths today; Monday must want to be a Tuesday.

Anywho, I am on spring break starting Friday, like I said before, and I'll be heading home for a little R&R. Although, I predict there will be little of both since I have like fifty friends and family members to visit. Who knows if I'll be blogging in that time.

We're almost completely thawed here in Northern Lower Michigan. The only snow that remains are one foot stacks of it here and there that used to be twelve foot piles of plow debris. Yesterday was a spectacular first day of spring. Between 2 and 5 o'clock in the afternoon, we had an inch of snow and then the rain came and washed it all away. Then we had a thunderstorm around 9. What an awesome day.

Now it is foggy outside and I must go work on a paper before I head to work. It's foggy in my brain too.

Check out this fantastic post about growing as a writer from Paul G.

* I lied, McCartney's my #1. Elana's absolutely #2 though.
** I am writing a persuasive essay on the need to highlight better books for boys. Can any of you suggest resources, like articles, books, and documentaries, that speak to this issue? I am having a heck of a time finding sources.

Mar 18, 2011

Three Questions. Two Blogs. One Elana. CONTEST!

In case you didn't already know...I love Elana Johnson

Even more than you do, if you can imagine. I love her blog with its funnies, advice, and bacon. I love her vlogs. And I really love her writing!

Possession, which is being published on June 7, 2011 by Simon Pulse, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, is FRAWESOME! (did you catch the hint from Wednesday's post?)

Seriously though. When I read Possession, it blew me away; I didn't know I was surrounded with such talent. It was the first time I realized the quality of writing on an author's blog really is reflected in his or her books.

I am not sure if I should admit this to you, but I got to read Possession last summer because I am a whiner. What happened is that Elana's query for Possession was being featured at Mathew Rush's blog The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment. Days earlier, Elana had announced her book deal to the world, and I may or may not have known for a little longer. My appetite was whet! And so, at Matt's blog, I posted this,

Damn you, Elana. My mouth was already watering to read this book, or any of your writing for that matter. Then you announce your book deal and now this. Hmph.
May 28, 2010 1:11 PM
I was totally a whiny little kid. Omg. And then Elana emailed me and said,
Because I love you... 
So you wanna read my book? Once you read it, I'm sure you'll think less of me. And I'm at work and about to go to lunch, so you'll have to wait until later tonight for me to email it. I don't know the protocol for these things, but I'm pretty sure I can trust you not to forward my draft to everyone and their dog. (Or anyone at all.)  
:) E
I was totally embarrassed! Like, I wanted to go hide under a rock. But I definitely wanted to be under that rock reading what was then called Control Issues. And I mean, is that not the sweetest email EVER? So of course I emailed her back and apologized for being a whiny fanboy, then said Hells Yeah I want to read your masterpiece!

And so I did, while on vacation. And it was like being on a vacation within a vacation. I was physically enjoying the summer heat, but mentally traversing a whole new world. Elana put me right inside the head of Violet Schoenfeld. Through Vi's eyes, we see a world all about Rules, Tech, and boys. We view everything through the eyes of a teenage girl, after all. But Vi is witty and bold. These qualities are what attract the eye of dangerous and cocky (and yeah, dreamy) Jag.

Possession is a dystopian novel, and Elana gives us grit and grime. But she also gives us sleek and modern. I am not a romantic person, but Elana brings out the miniature romantic in me. By the end of Possession, I was out of breath from the harsh, fast-paced action and raw emotion I felt as Vi fights for her life, and for the lives of others.

Sound like something you'd like to read?

I know the answer is yes.

So, how about a chance to win an ARC of Possession?

Not enough?

How about a chance to ask Elana a question and have her answer it via a vlog?!


There will be three winners from my blog (and Theresa Milstein has her own branch of the same contest!):

Two winners will have their question for Elana answered via vlog, and one winner will win an ARC of Possession.

I will put a lot of thought into the winners of the first two prizes, so put A LOT of thought into your questions for Elana. Whenever I ask Elana a question, she is funny and insightful in her response. Her advice and ideas are priceless. Be creative!

The winner of the ARC will be chosen at random.

This contest runs from today, March 18, through April 1 (the same day Carol's agenting contest ends).

To enter, click the link below and fill out the entry form. You must comment on this post and follow my blog and Elana's blog. 

And don't forget to visit Theresa for more fun and chances at winning! (Following Theresa's blog is not a requirement, but I highly recommend you do, she's superfly!)

Three Questions. Two Blogs. One Elana. click link for entry form

Mar 16, 2011

In a Hurry!

Why is it that when we have the least amount of time, we have the most to say.

Whew, Monday was AWESOME.

Yesterday was...long. Class 11-9, blech. But yeah, school is amazing right now. And my writing is progressing whole levels just from the papers I have been writing for my classes, which, with the exception of one, have nothing to do with writing.

Today, work and working on one paper, a really big and scary paper.

Tomorrow, class 11-5. Then I am watching Slumdog Millionaire for my next film class paper.

Friday, skyping with Kelly Polark as we get or work-in-progress, Sasquatch Eleanor, back on track. Also, a huge, major, frawesome (HINT: that's a hint) contest starts on Fri. Make sure you're here to enter.

We know Carol is having a good week, how's yours going? (And seriously, it's like all my writing circles are having successes this week. Hopefully I can share some of those things with you soon.)

Mar 14, 2011

My first crit partner to land an agent is................

That's right, the woman who brought you Cool GirlTips for Living a Kickass Life, and giveaway upon frickin-frackin giveaway (I swear, every month she gives away more books than I accumulate in one year) has  an AGENT!

Carol has signed with Vickie Motter of Andrea Hurst Literary for her YA novel, Whims of a Wish. (Vickie has a cool blog too:

I am so flippin' proud of my Carol. I caught her at the point of giving up more than once. And most of those times I was ready to throw in the towel too. We'd spend hours lamenting ourselves and complimenting the other. But she pressed on and it paid off! Yeah, sorry, totally mushy here, but I am just so freaking happy and inspired. I want to hold hands with her and skip, while wearing Lederhosen and holding lollipops.

To celebrate this joyous occasion, multiple giveaways are going on  - it's an Agent Celebration Mega Giveaway.

Carol is giving away a freaking Kindle (among other fly things), and Vickie Motter is giving away a first page critique!

I am giving away a $15 Barnes and Noble gift card. I am requiring that you follow me and Carol, and leave a comment at her blog and here in my comments. Simple enough?

All contests have started and end at midnight April 1.

Other celebratory giveaways from stand-up peeps chock-full of writerly prizes:

Writers Digest Guide To Query Letters 
The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass

2011 Guide To Literary Agents 
Writing The Breakout Novel by Donald Maass

One winner will win: 

WRITING DOWN THE BONES, by Natalie Goldberg
HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL, by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman

One winner will win all three:

Stephen King's ON WRITING
Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD

Winner 1: A signed copy of Misfit McCabe
Winner 2: A canvas book bag

Winner 1: A signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE
Winner 2: A signed copy of RAISED BY WOLVES

$25 Amazon gift card

A $25 Amazon gift card

A Hardcover of Across the Universe

A Signed copy of PERSONAL DEMONS by Lisa Desrochers

(You will need to subscribe to her blog)

101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Guide
A partial Critique

Some sweet books!

ANGELFIRE by Courtney Allison Moulton
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins
HEX HALL by Rachel Hawkins 
DEMONGLASS by Rachel Hawkins

Thanks for joining the blog partay! And I will never stop saying this...but CONGRATS CAROL!

Mar 13, 2011

They say to write what you know...

Well, that's kinda hard for someone as na├»ve as I am. I know, I know: I have lots of stories to tell; I have lived through some tough experiences. But honestly, I am not ready to tell them. And so I wonder what the heck I am doing. I have to lie; I have to make up stories.

I know they* say beginning writers must first learn how to write, and by the time they are good writers they'll be ready to tell their stories. Well, I am not a patient person. I am not a sit-down-and-learn-your-craft person. I am an I-get-it-or-I-don't person. And if I don't get it, which is frustratingly frequent, I shut down and stop production.

If I were talking to myself - which, let's face it, I am - I'd say, "That talk makes it sound like you think you're better than everyone else. Like you shouldn't have to pay your dues." Um, yeah, so not true. It's the complete opposite, in fact.

As I alluded to on the last post, I do not have confidence in my writing. My crit partners do. Even some of you who have not read my prose have confidence in my writing. Comma splices and fragments aside, I have a real talent. I know that. That is not the issue. I have more confidence about jumping out of a plane than I have for my writing.

They say to write what you know. Well, I just don't know...

This post is clearly rhetorical because I already know the number one piece of advice will be to take my time and it** will come.

* who the eff is they?
** what the eff is it?

Mar 10, 2011

When a professor asks why you put a certain line into your paper... not answer with, "Because I was trying to fill up the page."

All right. So, me saying that to my Education prof (who is also an English professor) was indicative of how I think about my own writing. I am not confident enough, and I do not take a lot of initiative to improve my writing. Instead, I am constantly restarting a new story. After the words split from my head and splat on the paper, my head thinks the process is over. I do this with term papers and short answer essays. I do not look over my work. Even when I pass along an unrevised first chapter to a friend, I tell them I have not read it. It's a sort of mini-disclaimer, but it accomplishes nothing good. In fact, it probably annoys the people I say it to; they just happen to love me too much to say anything.

And so, that same professor asked me to submit to a literary and art publication via my school. I really, really, really want to...but yeah. I honestly do not have anything that fits the bill. And since this publication looks for pragmatic and abstract submissions, it is extremely hard to find a viable excuse. I do not have any short stories that make sense, especially because they are all the beginning of a novel. My prof suggested I send him something that could be turned into a short story and we'd revise it together. Who the hell would refuse that offer? Not me. So now I am in a predicament: wtf do I send?

I'll be rummaging through my folders this evening in the hopes that something pops up.

And sorry I was gone for a week; life totally caught up with me.

Mar 2, 2011

Sibling Rivalries

Alright (or all right?),

My friends and family do not understand this one bit, and neither do I: I cannot write authentic and genuine sibling relationships. It's bizarre, especially since I have such illustrious sibling relationships myself. "Pull from your own life," one friend said. Yeah, well, duh. But it's harder than you think. I have some sort of sharing blockage (me? I know.), and it's hurting my writing.

Solution time!

I am taking three stars who I adore, and who share a slight resemblance, and making them sisters. Meet the McGowan sisters:

Emily, the wunderkind of the family. She has been succeeding at life since the beginning. She is, however, single and bitter about it.

Katy, the middle child, the wild child, the spends-one-forth-of-her-year-in-Cabo-always-will-be-single-child,

Zooey , the sweet and  innocent (and often absurdly quirky) baby of the family. Little does the family know, she is about to bring a baby of her own into the world, out of (gasp!) wedlock.

Now let's see what happens to these lovely ladies as they:

fight over the same man
face financial crises
lose a beloved family member
battle addictions
condemn cliches
(feel free to add to the list, I'll write about yours eventually)

This post is dedicated the to star-loving Roecker sisters, whose book The Liar Society came out yesterday. Congrats, ladies!